On December 6th, Uber driver Noah Forman claims he drove from Marcus Garvey Park in Harlem to Washington Square Park in downtown Manhattan, then back up to 59th street, across to Second Avenue, and back downtown to the Bowery at Prince Street before hitting a single red light. That’s 240 green lights in a row, for a 27-minute nonstop drive through New York City at about 3:30 in the morning.
Forman told The New York Daily News that his personal best before that night was 186 green lights. All of these things seem nearly impossible — the 186 green lights, the 240 green lights, the decision to drive a car down Fifth Avenue during holiday tourist season, the decision to drive a car down Fifth Avenue given the fact that it is home to a president-elect who does not count his home city’s drivability among his very few concerns. Yet, here is a video (sped up!).
Is it real? I don’t know, and neither does the NYC Department of Transportation. A spokesperson told The Verge that the DOT “cannot attest to this video, given we are unsure of its accuracy.”
I don’t want to be a jerk, but I typed Noah’s route into Google Maps. Unfortunately, as the speed limit on both Fifth Avenue and Second Avenue is 25 miles per hour, I’m going to have to guess that Noah was speeding a little bit at times. That part of the possibly true story is not great, as it would be illegal.
But either way, the video is beautiful. Look at how many times something goes right. 240 times. Can you imagine 240 things going just the way you want, and all of them happen one right after the other? Oh my goodness! While watching “Noah Hits 240 Green Lights,” it is lovely to zoom past the Christmas lights of midtown Manhattan. The zooming is much better than having to trudge through a hoard of human beings so dense and unnavigable that you end up thinking “hmm what would happen if I were to just lie down and take a nap in the warmth of this leg forest?” It is nice, in my opinion, that there are no collisions in this film about a car — atypical for the “movies about cars” genre. I am happy.
Forman told The New York Daily News that he “could tell right from the beginning” that it was a perfect night to try for his record. He also said, “It seems like you go with where the lights take you,” which is a cheesy poetic phrase but not the worst I’ve heard. Honestly if he’s making all this up I don’t even care.
Last week, I got to chat with Epic CEO Tim Sweeney, one of the virtual reality gaming industry’s most prominent figures. Like many others, Sweeney believes that VR has the potential to transform how we interact online, especially as more sophisticated tracking systems translate body language, facial expressions, and other details into digital worlds. More specifically, he thinks virtual reality could make us treat each other better there. Unfortunately, this is almost certainly wrong — and if we wait for it to happen, I fear we’ll ruin social VR in the process.
During the interview, I asked Sweeney about how social VR would deal with the toxicity that multiplayer games and social networks already have had to address. “Both multiplayer games and online forums have this property of virtual anonymity. Other people can’t really see you, they don’t really know who you are. And so the sort of social moderating mechanisms in real life, and your desire not to offend people around you, don’t really adjust,” Sweeney told me. “Once your VR avatar really looks like you, and people can see you, and you can see them and their faces and emotions, I think all of the normal restraining mechanisms will kick in. If you insult somebody and you see that they have a sad look on their face, then you’re going to feel really, really bad about that. And you’re probably not going to do it again.”
At first glance, this sounds theoretically possible: if people are more civil in face-to-face conversation, maybe that means we need more virtual faces on the internet. Anecdotally, virtual reality developers have shifted away from photorealism because some players have found killing real-seeming people in VR disturbing. But there’s a gulf between a willingness to kill and a willingness to say nasty things, and even if a minority of people treat each other badly, that can ruin things for everyone else.
As anyone who’s been bullied, catcalled, or otherwise harassed in real life can attest, social restraining mechanisms don’t create a blanket aversion to “offending people.” They make everyone worry about offending people they see as part of their in-group — or people they could face punishment for bothering.
There are good reasons to make online communication more expressive. Being able to read someone’s emotions better is great if you’re already invested in having a decent conversation. It could make it easier to detect sarcasm, convey intimacy, or tell whether you’ve accidentally caused distress. It’s a worthy and interesting goal, and one that could transform how we interact online.
But saying that emotions will make you care about a person is totally backward. Online griefers, for instance, love seeing firsthand evidence that they’ve hurt someone. The platitude “don’t feed the trolls” has limits, but it accurately captures an important harassment dynamic: the more visible and agitated someone’s response, the more “exploitable” they are for future attacks. Outside virtual reality, games like Hearthstone and Splatoon were praised for removing — not expanding — the ability to communicate with other players. And the argument that VR has a unique empathy-generating power has its own set of problems.
The internet isn’t hostile because people there don’t look real enough — it’s not even clear that making internet users tie their actions to real-life identities helps that much, except insofar as it helps prosecutors literally put offenders in jail. Among other reasons, the internet is hostile because it puts a lot of disparate groups within arm’s reach of each other, and it’s extremely easy to deliver abuse with said proximity. The odds of suffering any external social consequences are vanishingly low, and they’re often offset by your own digital tribe’s approval — see, for example, the rise of “professional victimizers” and their legions of fans. Even if you assume that the majority of users are kind (or indifferent) to everyone they meet online, communications technology can vastly amplify a few bad voices. And the attempts to correct them through old-fashioned social shaming often backfire tremendously, simply creating a new cycle of abuse.
Harassment has already proved to be a problem in VR social networks and multiplayer experiences: one of the most famous incidents of 2016 involved an anonymous player grabbing his female partner’s virtual chest in an archery game. Saying that things will get better once we just have the right combination of sensors only inspires complacency. Why bother fixing something in the short term when you could chase a utopian dream instead?
Fortunately, this isn’t the approach I’ve seen most developers take. When QuiVR’s creators found out about the incident above, they instituted a personal space bubble that prevented unwanted touching, as well as a gesture that could totally erase another player from view. VR social network AltspaceVR introduced a similar bubble after people reported harassment on the platform. These technological solutions aren’t a silver bullet; you also need strong social norms and moderation. But they’re a kind of infrastructure that empowers good citizens and makes trolls’ lives harder.
The sheer scale of the digital world can make it feel more dangerous than the “real” one, both inside and outside VR. But the internet can also provide spaces to engage with people you would never meet offline, safe from threats of physical force or economic pressure. The best communities have thrived by giving users control over what they can share, letting them choose who to interact with, and consistently kicking out people who break the rules — not by waiting for some final, perfect method of communication.
DirecTV Now’s limited-time introductory $35-per-month subscription deal is going away early next month. AT&T’s website confirms that the “Go Big” package of over 100 channels will switch to its normal $60 monthly cost starting January 9th.
If you’re at all interested in the streaming TV service, you should sign up before that date — otherwise you’ll miss out on the promotional price. If you do start a DirecTV Now subscription by the 9th, you’ll be able to continue paying that $35 each month without being switched to the more expensive subscription plan. Once the limited offer ends, there will still be a $35 plan, but with significantly fewer channels:
AT&T has said that anyone who subscribes to the $35 promotion will be locked in at that price. But for how long? That part’s unclear. The DirecTV Now website plainly states that this “offer rate may increase,” and AT&T executives have already admitted that the service’s pricing structure is likely to rise in the future to account for the costs of signing deals with cable channels. Oh, and those channels might go away with little or no notice — something PlayStation Vue customers are now familiar with. Yeah, some people might just be better off sticking with traditional cable.
But we’ve found DirecTV Now, in its currently early incarnation, to be a decent bargain for the $35 / 100 channels price. I’d seriously hesitate to pay more than that at this stage, as I’ve been getting emails from some customers upset over bugs, streaming issues, and other viewing problems in the weeks since the service publicly launched. If you want to see how things fare for you, you can sign up for an entire free month using this promo code over at Slickdeals. Normally the free trial is limited to one week, but this gets you more time and in on that temporary $35 pricing before it’s gone.
Vaping is more popular with teens than ever, with more than one-third of high school students reporting having tried e-cigarettes. And teens aren’t always using e-cigs for nicotine, according to a new US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that dug into teen vaping behavior.
To evaluate e-cig use, the CDC and the US Food and Drug Administration poured through surveys filled out by 17,000 middle and high school students across the US in 2015. About 38 percent of high school students and 13 percent of middle school students reported that they’ve tried e-cigarettes. That could be an underestimate, too, since the students were reporting their own behavior, and surveys based on self-reports are known to be unreliable.
The CDC is interested in vaping is because we still don’t know exactly how using e-cigarettes could affect a teen’s development. A medical group in the UK lauded e-cigs as useful tools to help current smokers quit, but the CDC said in a statement there’s no evidence that they work. What’s more, e-cig use during adolescence could kickstart an addiction, and the US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy warns that nicotine in any form is unsafe for teenagers. Still, more than 3 million teens used e-cigs in 2015, a tenfold increase over four years that Murthy called a public health crisis. But to stop it, the CDC has to understand it better.
In today’s report, one-third of e-cigarette users reported using their devices for something other than nicotine. This was more common for male white and Hispanic students than non-Hispanic black students. The survey didn’t get into what exactly the students were using their vape pens for, if not nicotine. But other studies point to pot as the most likely substance.
More than half of the e-cig users stuck to reusable electronic cigarettes — the ones you can refill with new liquid nicotine cartridges — as opposed to the disposable kind. Although most of the students didn’t know what brand they were using, the ones who did used blu and VUSE most frequently.
Both of these brands are owned by big tobacco companies, and are among the most heavily advertised. Millions of teens are exposed to ads for e-cigarettes online and in stores. These ads take a leaf out of big-tobacco’s book, promising independence and sex appeal to manipulate people into buying. And they work: more exposure to e-cig advertisements corresponds with more e-cig use in young adults, according to previous CDC research.
The CDC has repeatedly called for restricting e-cig marketing, but they have no control over advertisements. But regulation of the devices is growing; just this year, the FDA ruled that e-cigarettes and vape pens fall under the regulatory umbrella of tobacco products, which means the agency can ban sales to people under 18. We’ll see if the numbers of teenage users drop when the CDC analyzes the data from 2016.
Editing tweets, while seemingly an easy thing to introduce, requires work on the backend. What if someone edited a tweet months later and you had retweeted it? It could look like you’re endorsing something totally different than you intended. That’s one of the more obvious concerns.
@AnthonyQuintano edit mistakes quickly or edit anytime? Big dif in implementation. Latter requires change log as we’re oft the public record
Clearly Jack and whoever else is left at the company is thinking through these issues. They might have a plan in place for all we know and just want further input. So now, let’s all join hands — that means you, too, Kim Kardashian — and will Twitter to give us editing power.
DNR spokesperson Jim Dick told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinelin an email that the “updated page reflects our position on this topic that we have communicated for years, that our agency regularly must respond to a variety of environmental and human stressors from drought, flooding, wind events to changing demographics.” This does not address the question of why the new language implies that we do not know what causes climate change.
The Obama administration today announced new sanctions against Russia in response to the country’s widely reported role in hacks meant to influence the US presidential election.
The sanctions include penalties for five entities and four individuals. Included on that list are multiple officials from Russia’s Main Intelligence Directorate, the country’s military intelligence unit tied to this year’s hack of the Democratic National Committee. Top officials from the Directorate, known as the GRU, are also listed for sanctions, as are two individuals with several digital aliases. Russia’s Federal Security Service, another intelligence agency, has also been sanctioned.
Three companies, which the White House says “provided material support” to GRU operations, were included in the sanctions as well.
As part of today’s action, 35 Russian officials who “were acting in a manner inconsistent with their diplomatic status” in the US, according to the White House, will be ejected. Two compounds, one in New York and one in Maryland, used by Russia for intelligence purposes will also be shut down. Previous reporting this week also suggested the US will also take long-expected, unspecified covert action against Russia, likely using cyber techniques.
“These actions follow repeated private and public warnings that we have issued to the Russian government, and are a necessary and appropriate response to efforts to harm U.S. interests in violation of established international norms of behavior,” Obama said in a statement.
The new sanctions amend a previous executive order from the president, “Blocking the Property of Certain Persons Engaging in Significant Malicious Cyber-Enabled Activities,” which was made in response to North Korea’s hack of Sony. The order allows the president to impose travel bans and freeze the assets of sanctioned persons, although in the case of the Russian officials, it may be mostly symbolic. Russian officials previously faced penalties from the Obama administration in 2014, after the country’s annexation of Crimea.
As part of the announcement, the Department of Homeland Security and FBI issued a joint report detailing malicious cyber operations in Russia. Some of the information in the report will be newly declassified, according to the White House.
“Such steps of the US administration that has three weeks left to work are aimed at two things: to further harm Russian-American ties, which are at a low point as it is, as well as, obviously, deal a blow on the foreign policy plans of the incoming administration of the president-elect,” the spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin told reporters in response to the sanctions.
Along with last year’s hack of the DNC, which caused major embarrassment for the Democratic part and led to the resignation of top DNC officials, Russia is believed to have orchestrated the hack of Hillary Clinton campaign chair John Podesta. Emails stolen from Podesta’s account and later released have been seen as one factor in Clinton’s loss.
But the future of the sanctions will be uncertain after Trump takes office. The president-elect took a considerably more pro-Russia stance before the election, and has attempted to cast doubt on the country’s links to the hacks. “The whole age of computer has made it where nobody knows exactly what is going on,” he said yesterday.
Adam Ruins Everything, a TruTV show created by comedian Adam Conover, points out obvious problems in an effort to get some laughs. Segments from his show are often broken off into standalone videos that are tailor-made for viral success on the internet, pulling in millions of views while explaining things like the famous McDonald’s hot coffee lawsuit.
In a new sketch, though, Conover turns his sights on electric cars. He claims that electric cars “aren’t as green as you think,” calls the Tesla Model S an “ecologically problematic toy,” and repeatedly shames a fictional Tesla buyer.
Why bother attacking electric cars and the people who want to buy them? Conover (or his writers) apparently believes that switching to an electric car merely shifts your fuel source from the gas pump to a power plant, and that power plants are inherently dirty.
But Conover almost instantly gives away how he’s twisting logic to make his argument when he follows this claim by saying that “if those power plants burn coal, driving an electric car can actually put more CO2 into the air than a hybrid.”
But the biggest problem is that, when Conover makes this crucial argument in the video, he cites a piece written by Slate’s senior technology writer Will Oremus in 2013 — a piece that’s more about the difficulty of parsing all this information than it is about how electric cars might be dirty. What’s more, Oremus spends a large chunk of his article explaining that how “clean” your electric car is will vary depending on where you live, because different parts of the country use different percentages of these fuel sources to generate electricity. From Oremus’ piece:
For any given Model S, though, the emissions-per-mile depend heavily on the mix of energy sources that go into your local grid. According to Tesla’s own emissions calculator, if you’re driving your Model S in West Virginia—where the power mix is 96 percent coal—you’re spewing some 27 pounds of CO2 in a typical 40-mile day, which is comparable to the amount you’d emit in a conventional Honda Accord. Indiana, Kentucky, and Ohio aren’t much better. On the other hand, if you’re charging your Tesla in California, where natural gas supplies more than half the electricity—or, better yet, Idaho or Washington, where hydroelectricity reigns—your per-mile emissions are a fraction of that amount. Congratulations: Your Model S is a clean machine after all.
If you you’re thinking about buying an electric car, the US Department of Energy has a nifty tool that lets you search by state to see how electric cars stack up emissions-wise against hybrids and gasoline-powered cars, with respect to the local electrical grid.
Either way, how dirty a power plant might be shouldn’t stop car companies from making electric cars, just as much as it shouldn’t stop people from buying one. It’s a problem that the companies that run the power plants need to address. And wouldn’t you know it, that’s exactly how Oremus concluded the piece that Conover cites in his video:
To use the nation’s reliance on dirty coal as an argument against electric cars is to get things backward. Rather, the prospect of making cars far greener than they are today should count as yet another argument against the nation’s continued reliance on dirty coal.
The latter half of Conover’s video is more about how buying lots of new cars, especially when you don’t need to replace your old one, can hurt the environment because of the emissions created by the process required to make cars in the first place. This “carbon footprint” argument is a more salient point than his first one, but it doesn’t just apply to electric cars — it applies to all products.
If this is the point Conover really wanted to make with his video, then he should have just focused on carbon footprints in the first place. Instead, he used poorly interpreted data and lazy research to target electric cars as a way to eventually get around to making this point. And in the process he shamed people for potentially being smug about trying to help the environment in small ways — an unnecessary jab that South Park already landed (in a much funnier way) a decade ago.
Encouraging people to learn more about where they get their energy from is a good thing. And we shouldn’t treat electric cars like some silver bullet that will take town dirty energy. But you can accomplish both those things without attacking people who are interested (and invested) in the technology or misrepresenting the reality of the situation — even if it means presenting the information in a more nuanced and less viral-ready way.
After over a year of speculation, Ryan Gosling has signed on to star in the upcoming Neil Armstrong biopic First Man, Variety reports. The film will be directed by La La Land’s Damien Chazelle, from a script by Spotlight’s Josh Singer.
The story is based on Armstrong’s official biography, First Man: A Life of Neil A. Armstrong, published by NASA historian James Hansen in 2005. The film will cover only the years 1961 to 1969, focusing on the first manned mission to the Moon. According to Variety it will be a “visceral, first-person account” of “one of the most dangerous space missions in history.”
Warner Bros. and Clint Eastwood purchased the film rights to the book two years before its publish, with Eastwood set to direct and produce, but the project then languished for a decade. Chazelle was said to be in talks to take over as director in the fall of 2014, following the success of his debut feature Whiplash.
Both he and Gosling are now confirmed for the project, making it their second collaboration after this year’s critically-acclaimed musicalLa La Land. This will be Chazelle’s first time directing a feature film that he did not also write.
If the word “Hatchimal” sounds like utter nonsense to you, you’ve come to the right place. The toy craze of 2016 has, for many Americans, been released from its temporary, concealed home beneath Christmas trees, and unleashed upon living rooms. It squawks, it waddles, and of course, it hatches. But what is it.
We’ve created a helpful FAQ, so that you better understand these creatures that combine the eerie artificial behavior of a Furby with the biological horror of birth.
What is a Hatchimal?
Created by toymaker Spin Masters, Hatchimals were this year’s holiday it-toy. They were and still are impossible to find on store shelves. So, here’s what one looks like in an empty void of white space.
Each Hatchimal comes inside a plastic egg that it has to literally hatch out of — get it? Hatchimal? Hatchimal? Do you get—
Oh my goodness, you are insufferable.
I know, right? So anyway, it’s a plush, chubby little creature that busts out of an egg. Some are similar looking to penguins, like the one above, while others have horns, antenna, and so on. Each Hatchimal will learn how to walk, talk, and play games as it goes through the five stages of its life: egg, hatching, baby, toddler, and kid.
Is there an adult stage?
There is no adult stage.
Like I was saying, it’s basically a robot pet. Once you’ve gotten it out of its egg, you’ll spend time playing with and caring for the little booger. Its eyes will change color to indicate its feelings (red if it’s mad, purple if it’s hungry, orange if it needs to burp, and so on). You pet it, you feed it, you teach it things to say.
So it’s a Furby.
It’s more like a cross between a Furby and a Tamagotchi. Remember Tamagotchi, the tiny digital pet you hatched out of a virtual egg and took care of? David McDonald, one of the designers who helped create Hatchimal, does. “I had always wanted to do something that hatches,” McDonald told The Verge in a previous interview. “I always thought that Tamagotchi had dropped the ball — they had a neat idea, but never took it any further, into the real world.”
Freeing this little fur ball will take “anywhere from 10 to 40 minutes, according to the toy’s website. You have to rub, touch, and tap the egg to coax the creature from its safe, warm shell into a world of unexplainable anxiety. When it’s ready, you’ll see “rainbow eyes,” as in its eyes will start to glow from inside the egg, like some B-movie monster. Then the beast will begin to peck its way out.
If you really want to re-create your own raptor hatching scene, you can peel away parts of the shell. There are some more “creative” ways to get a Hatchimal out, but the hatching process is like, half of the appeal. We certainly don’t recommend the water blasting technique.
Although you may have a general idea of what color it’ll be, Hatchimals are blindbox toys — you really don’t know which toy you’ve got until it’s escaped its birthing chamber.
That seems complicated.
Yeah, it’s a neat idea that doesn’t always work. When some eggs failed to properly hatch on Christmas, angry parents swarmed Spin Master’s social media pages to complain; the company has since vowed to boost their customer service to address problems. Other customers said their newly hatched friends straight up died soon after pecking their way in the world. Or they wouldn’t turn on (read: refused to live).
To paraphrase Jeff Goldblum: “Life finds away. Except sometimes it doesn’t.” As with all electronic purchases, Hatchimal owners should hold on to that receipt in case of a dud.
I hear they say swear words. Why would a kid’s toy do that?
Okay, so there are two parts to this claim. The first includes reports about Hatchimals muttering “fuck me” while snoozing in their eggs. This is stupid. Before the Hatchimal breaks free of its egg, you can sometimes here it snoring loudly in its incubator. It’s a little sigh coupled with a hard “e” sound that, at best, would sound like a bleeped version of the aforementioned vulgar phrase. Some people think it sounds like “hug me.”
But, don’t take my word for it. Just listen to this video:
That said, you you can teach Hatchimals phrases. Here’s another video in which the Hatchimal in question does drop an F-bomb; a quick search around YouTube will also yield you some NSFW phrases.
So, maybe keep your sailor mouth in check around your new friend.
Where can I get one?
Hatchimals start at $59.99 and are sold at Amazon, Kmart, Target, Toys R Us, Walmart, and Spin Master. A few variants are retailer exclusive. If you want Burtles, for example, who has little antenna, you have to go to Walmart.
They’re probably a little easier to find now that Christmas is over, but don’t be surprised if your local stores are still sold out. If you can’t find them through traditional online shopping, there’s always the chaos of eBay.
Am I a monster if I keep this for myself and don’t give it to a child?
If you have a kid who wants one, I mean, yes, probably. I personally don’t have kids, so I’m not going to judge you.